CNN’s Jeff Zucker didn’t hesitate to kick Fox News when it was down. Speaking at the Future of News conference hosted by the Financial Times, Zucker called the rival network “state-run TV.” From the Hollywood Reporter:
CNN President Jeff Zucker lashed out at competitor Fox News at an industry conference on Thursday afternoon, saying that Fox News “is really state-run TV. It is a pure propaganda machine and I think does incredible disservice to this country.”
He said the network has really changed in the last two years, following the departure of the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes. He described the change at the network as “shocking.”
“There are a handful of good journalists there, but I think they are lost in what is a complete propaganda machine,” said Zucker, who claimed Fox News “has nothing on” the Russian government-run TASS Russian News Agency.
Zucker added: “The idea that it’s a news channel, I think, is really not the case at all.”
The bit about state-run TV is a bit over the top. Even if you don’t like Fox’s conservative opinion hosts, it’s not fair to say all of them are taking direction from the president, much less the entire network. Let’s not forget that President Obama had MSNBC hosts visit the White House several times. That didn’t mean he it was state-run TV either, though it was reliably progressive.
But it’s fair to say that Fox News has had a tough month. Last week, the network was sued by the family of Seth Rich over a retracted story claiming he was the source of DNC emails given to Wikileaks. A couple days after that there was a public squabble between Shep Smith and some of Fox’s opinion hosts which seemed to suggest some tension behind the scenes. Then this week Col. Ralph Peters made his surprisingly blunt announcement he was leaving the network because he felt it had become a “propaganda machine.” “Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” Peters wrote.
That story was catnip over at CNN which covered it on air and wrote a story full of quotes from anonymous sources bashing Fox News:
“The thing hit like a bombshell,” a longtime Fox News employee, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter, told CNN.
The stunning note reverberated through the Fox News community. Employees passed it along to other employees, people familiar with the matter said, with many agreeing with the thrust of the note: That Fox News opinion personalities were out of control in their devotion to Trump. One employee even told CNN that they were “jealous” about the way Peters made a splash on his way out and that the person “fantasized” about doing the same.
And it wasn’t only the rank-and-file employees who were talking about it. Fox News executives were “rattled” by the leak, afraid that the story has the potential to grow legs, as Peters is a fierce conservative with a lot of credibility within the conservative community, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.
So there are really two things going on here. One is that there clearly is some tension at Fox News over the opinion hosts and their pro-Trump line. That led to the squabble last week and to Peters’ decision to leave this week. Second, CNN is capitalizing on this to attack its main rival. In fact, Zucker’s statement sounds like a paraphrase of Col. Peters’ exit email.
Of course what’s not mentioned here is that CNN has also become extremely partisan over the past year (even more so than it was before). If Fox seems pro-Trump, especially among opinion shows, CNN definitely seems anti-Trump, not just on the air but on its homepage. Like Zucker, I would say there are still some good journalists at CNN who make an effort not to become a caricature of MSNBC, but the idea that CNN is covering the news without bias is laughable. As I noted earlier today, CNN’s own analysts feel the need to lash out personally at anyone daring to make a statement Trump himself agrees with.